Special Operations: It Brings On Many Changes




June 23, 2008:  Seven years of war have brought many changes to the U.S. Army Special Forces SFQC (Special Forces Qualification Course). This is the year long process by which highly qualified infantrymen are turned into Special Forces operators.  The major changes are that the trainees go through as part of a detachment (an "A Team"), and get much more realistic training for the specific part of the world they are going to (usually Iraq or Afghanistan).  Trainees now get their first language training in the SFQC. Previously, you went to language school after SFQC. Many still do, but they already have some working knowledge of the language.


Tactical training is much more realistic, and loud. Before 2005, trainees fired only about a hundred rounds of live ammo during SFQC, now they fire at least 3,400. There's much more tactical training. Much greater use is made of computer simulators and wargames. Most of this stuff didn't exist before 2001. The sims provide more training, more realistically, and in less time. There's more training on cultures, and how to play cultural quirks.


The old training system (which was phased out three years ago) went on for 63 weeks, although there was a lot more time spent waiting around (for aircraft, special equipment, whatever). Now the training is more intense, and there's much less wasted time. The current training is kept as close to real operations as possible.


The new system works. The Special Forces have been able to expand the size of the force. Many believed that would be impossible, if high standards were also maintained. Currently there are five active duty Special Forces Groups. Each special forces group has a small headquarters unit and three Special Forces battalions. Each Special Forces battalion has a small headquarters (known as a C detachment), three operational companies and one support company. Each operational company has six "A Teams" (officially known as ODAs, or Operational Detachment Alpha) of twelve men. Total strength of a Special Forces company is 83 men. The company headquarters is called a B Team. Total strength of a Special Forces Group is about 1200 troops, when at full strength. Currently, strength (for enlisted operators) is at 111 percent. Starting next year, and for each of the next five years, an additional battalion will be added to the current force of fifteen battalions.


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